Bad Blood


In the movie “The Godfather,” while Clemenza gives Michael small arms training he counsels the young Don not to worry about the coming Mafia war…“these things have got to happen every ten years or so;” says Clemenza, “it cleans out the bad blood.”

Forgive Republicans for watching the calendar and stubbornly focusing on Washington state, but it has been ten years since the last gubernatorial election was arguably stolen from them. The year was ’94. The state was Maryland. The candidates were Republican Ellen Sauerbrey and Democrat Parris Glendening. In ’94 in Maryland, the last Republican to hold the Maryland governorship was Spiro Agnew. He’d been elected in 1964. On election night the vote showed Glendening had won only three of Maryland’s 24 counties, Baltimore County and the two Washington D.C. suburban counties, Montgomery and Prince Georges County, yet he still carried the state by 6,000 votes.

Republican Sauerbrey sued to have the election overturned, arguing that 5,000 ballots were cast by prison inmates and that several hundred ballots were cast by voters who voted twice, gave home addresses of abandoned buildings or were deceased. A Maryland judge eventually threw out Sauerbrey’s suit ruling that only 3,700 votes were in dispute and that they would not be enough to change the election outcome. Glendening went on to the governorship and four years later defeated Sauerbrey in a rematch.

It would not be until ’02, when Republican Robert Erlich defeated Democrat Kathleen Kennedy Townsend, that Maryland would get its first Republican governor in four decades. The picture of thousands of crooked ballots in Maryland in ’94 coming from the state’s largest counties became an unsettling image for Republicans nationally, reminding them of the 1960 Presidential Election when Mayor Daley illegally delivered Cook County and Illinois to JFK and consequently the presidency.

The 2000 presidential election didn’t help calm Republican fears about electoral shenanigans by Democrats in big city counties. Remember Al Gore wanting a recount, but only a recount in Florida’s three largest counties…all Democrat counties.

And now in 2004, Republican Dino Rossi has lost the closest gubernatorial election in American history, 129 votes, to Democrat Christine Gregoire. Washington state, like Maryland in 1994, and like Oregon today, has not elected a Republican to the governorship in two decades. The last Washington Republican governor was John Spellman, elected in 1980, but defeated for reelection in 1984 by Democrat Booth Gardner.

Rossi, who won the election in the first count and also won in the second count, and who carried 31 of 39 of the state’s counties, eventually lost the third count, the manual recount. While Rossi is expected to take the Nixon route and (for the good of the state) not sue, still, questions remain. Republicans are experiencing a growing sense of uneasiness that in very close elections Democrats will always prevail because of the straggling and questionable votes that Democrats always seem able to produce from their large, urban counties.

Some of the more troubling aspects of the Gregoire/Rossi election:

Why were large Republican counties, Clark and Spokane, able to do their manual recount and change the outcome by only 2 and 7 votes respectively, while King County’s recount meant a change in favor of Gregoire of 179 votes? (And in this election those 179 votes meant everything.)

Why was King County, a county which is two-thirds Democrat, the only county in the state to find uncounted ballots at the county’s election headquarters? (And how convenient was it that one of those uncounted ballots just happened to belong to a

King County councilman, immediately giving the uncounted ballots credibility with the media they would not have had otherwise.)

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